COLLEGE PARK -- Before No. 2 Maryland opened its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule last night, coach Gary Williams pleaded for kinder, gentler language from the fans in the student section at Cole Field House.
His Terps then beat the you-know-what out of Wake Forest.
In a performance that proved that an NBA lockout hasn't deprived the nation of breathtaking basketball, Maryland made its first 14 shots, built a 28-8 lead and rolled to a 92-69 whipping before another energized sellout crowd of 14,500. The outcome exorcised some Demon Deacons for the Maryland seniors, who were 0-3 against Wake at home.
"We've played eight games and it's too early to get carried away," said Williams, who took to the public address system before the game and asked the Maryland students to curb their profanity, even though "I'm not the right guy to be talking to you about cursing."
It was Maryland's easiest win over Wake Forest since the 1993-94 season. Alas, the Terps' average margin of victory decreased, as the Demon Deacons used a late 13-0 spurt against the Maryland reserves to get that bulge down to 35.3.
In its own way, considering the conference circumstances and an opponent that swept Maryland last season, this performance was even more impressive than the show the Terps put on at the Puerto Rico Shootout, where they used an early 20-0 run to dispose of No. 20 Pittsburgh.
Maryland (8-0, 1-0) had its requisite five players in double figures, as junior college transfer Steve Francis was right when he said it was just another game. He had 18 points and six assists, and a strong defensive job on Robert O'Kelley, as last season's ACC Rookie of the Year was held to 1-for-9 shooting.
"We wanted to make a statement about what we can do defensively," Francis said. "That's when our transition game gets going."
The front line of center Obinna Ekezie and forwards Laron Profit and Terence Morris took 25 shots and missed only seven. Ekezie had a game-high 19 points, and the other two combined for 31. Supersub Juan Dixon had 14 on three three-pointers. With eight assists, point guard Terrell Stokes was the ringmaster.
Profit turned his left ankle on a second-half dunk and hobbled off the court, but said he would practice today, and be ready for Sunday's game against No. 5 Stanford at the MCI Center.
Wake Forest (6-2, 0-1) started its seventh lineup in as many games, and junior point guard Jim Fitzpatrick was in way over his head against the ready for prime time Terps, whose pressure forced five turnovers in the game's opening minutes.
Maryland had a devastating 15-0 run and was later up 32-10 in the eighth minute. That's what the spread was when the Terps finally missed a shot, with 12: 07 left in the half, when Craig Dawson contested Danny Miller's try after one of the Demon Deacons' 18 first-half turnovers.
The Terps had a lot of easy chances off turnovers and in transition, especially in the stretch when they took it from 15-8 to 28-8, but their half-court game was also purring.
Ekezie scored on a nice up-and-under move on the baseline. Maryland made its first three three-pointers, two by Morris and another by Francis, who lifted over freshman Darius Songaila on a move that was the dunk du jour until the number the junior college transfer laid down in the fourth minute of the second half on a lob from Stokes.
Wake Forest got some brief hope when it crept within 36-22, but it was promptly extinguished by eight straight Maryland points.
Everything went right for the Terps in the first half, which ended with confusion over the shot clock that required Demon Deacons coach Dave Odom to leave the refuge of his locker room.
After an inadvertent horn or whistle on a three by Profit that ended up in Maryland's hands, the officials huddled for several minutes and awarded the Terps the ball. After Odom returned to the court and had his say, Francis inbounded to Dixon, whose three from the left corner at the buzzer made it 54-29 and gave the Terps a .714 (20 of 28) shooting percentage for the half.
As Odom's gang played inside baseball and Williams' kept hitting three-run homers, the spread grew to 63-29, and got as large as 89-54.
It was Maryland's first victory over Wake Forest at Cole Field House since the 1994-95 season. The Demon Deacons won here last February.
The only other opponent to win at Cole last season was Duke, and the No. 4 Blue Devils happen to be the Terps' next ACC opponent, Jan. 3 at Cole.
Pub Date: 12/04/98